The post-election change of power in the White House is a reminder of how it should be done.
President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama are talking about the nation's economic crisis and the government's response. Both agree that time is of the essence, and another portion of the multi-billion in bailout funds approved by Congress have been released by the president. Obama, obviously looking ahead, is promising more transparency and targeted uses for the funds. That was lacking in the initial distributions.
It was the 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1933 that reduced the period of interregnum in this country. That amendment was the result of the harmful and too-long hiatus that came after Franklin D. Roosevelt's election in November 1932. Roosevelt would not succeed Herbert Hoover until mid-March, set in the Constitution when wintertime travel made logistics difficult. During that time, the financial sector continued to be roiled by the 1920s stock market speculation and banks continued to fail. The new president, a Democrat, wanted to move faster and more radically to come up with a fix than did Hoover, a Republican. Too much time was wasted.
The 20th Amendment that set Jan. 20 as the date that the president assumes power was the result.
When it comes to foreign affairs, Obama has made it clear that until noon Jan. 20 there is only one U.S. president. Plenty of people would like him to weigh in on Israel's incursion into Gaza in response to the Palestinian rockets, but he wisely and respectfully has not.
As to changes of power where communication and synchronization were lacking, even after the 20th Amendment, historians point to the distance between Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower after Eisenhower's victory in 1952, and to John Kennedy and Eisenhower in 1960.
And there are political scientists who think that the current nine weeks is too long; they speculate that the country's best interest would be served if a president-elect could become president in just days.
This country's economic malaise is extremely serious, and its resolution uncertain. That President Bush and President-elect Obama are at the highest level taking some courses of action is critical.